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The ACC/Big Ten Challenge came to a close after a 15-season run this year, and it came out with an absolute bang. Four matchups in the final iteration of the challenge pitted ranked teams against each other, with two of those being top 10 squad battles. The ACC ultimately won 8-6, but there’s a lot to like about the Big Ten, especially at the top.
Those two conferences will be the focus of this week’s power rankings, but first, a quick nod to the South Carolina GamecocksThey keep finding ways to win.
Abandoned: louisville (16), Texas (21)
almost famous: marquetteNebraska, Kansas, Middle Tennessee
Notes on the vows
• The Pac-12 continues to test South Carolina, this time in the form of University of California at Los Angeles as the Bruins took it to the Gamecocks on their home court. A young UCLA team built a double-digit lead against the defending champions in the first half by filling the paint and sending hard doubles to aliyah boston. But kamilla cardoso He found the gaps in the defense as the game progressed, attacking the offensive glass to provide the needed scoring for South Carolina on a night the team hit just one 3-pointer.
It all goes back to the Gamecocks defense, though, and against the Bruins, rim protection was the name of the game. South Carolina’s dominant front line forced UCLA to shoot 9 of 23 shots directly to the basket. Many of those misses came in the form of straight rejections, as the Gamecocks had 15 blocks in the game with a combined nine from Boston and Cardoso. South Carolina leads the nation with 10 blocks per game by rejecting 24.8 percent of opponents’ 2-point field goal attempts. Only one team since 2009-10 has achieved a block rate of at least 20 percent (per Her Hoop Stats), and that was 2019 national champion Baylor, led by the twin towers of Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox. This Gamecocks defense is special and that’s why South Carolina is never out of any game.
• Toward the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. give up for ohio state. The Buckeyes had a joyous victory in Louisville; after trailing by 13 points a minute into the third quarter, their pressure completely changed the flow of the game and they pulled off a 19-point victory. Ohio State’s defense gets a lot of attention, and that’s to be expected with the Buckeyes’ all-court press and staggering steal numbers. I still can’t fathom the fact that jay sheldon collects six steals per game. But the Buckeyes’ offense has really come through.
taylor mikesell he’s once again shooting 3-pointers at professional volume and still hitting 40 percent of them. His game off the dribble has also improved, allowing him to generate some easier 2-point looks. I personally can’t get enough of Rebeka Mikulášikova. His footwork in the post is extraordinary, and having a big one who can score from the perimeter and also put the ball on the ground makes it easier for others. Mikulášiková spun the Cardinals with the little fakes of her on the block. She is doing 71.8 percent of hers 2 hers and 42.3 percent of hers 3, an amazing level of efficiency. Ohio State relies heavily on a short rotation, but it’s hard to quibble too much when it’s producing as well as the Buckeyes’ seniors are.
• Ohio State’s win at Louisville won’t seem all that significant after the Cardinals’ subsequent loss to Middle Tennessee: It’s got to be killing team planners that two preseason top-10 teams have disappointed as much as Tennessee and Louisville thus far, but the Cardinals had won 21 straight games at home and 40 straight against non-conference teams. This was an impressive victory for the Buckeyes.
As for Louisville, say goodbye to the top 25, at least for now. The team’s best win over Texas It doesn’t look so good anymore, and when the Cardinals face other top-25 caliber teams, they come up short.
The vibrations are a bit strange. For one thing, Morgan Jones’ minutes are all over the place: She’s simply too talented to average 19 minutes per game, but she’s clearly not on the same page as coach Jeff Walz. Louisville gets nothing from its bank, and yet sophomore Payton Verhulst just entered the transfer portal because she wanted more than one chance. The schedule at least calms down for the Cardinals for the rest of the month, and they’ll have to figure out how to fix their myriad problems before ACC play begins.
• NC State, last season’s ACC champion, was one of the big Challenge winners with a win at Iowa despite 45 points from caitlin-clark. the Pack of wolves They are finding a very good balance in their revamped roster, which stands out even more against a team like hawk eyes. It is reasonable to call diamond johnson, Jakia Brown-Turner, Jada Boyd or even transfer from South Carolina to Saniya Rivers to pick up the scoring load. The offense seems a bit disjointed at times, a bit your turn, my turn, but individual talent is enough to carry NC State through before they all learn to play together.
• Between the state of North Carolina, Virginia Tech, our lady Y North Carolina, it’s really hard to pin down which squad has been the best in the ACC thus far. The Hokies are the only unbeaten group but they don’t have big wins. The Tar Heels were absolutely beaten by Grace Berger-less Indiana this week and have been wildly inconsistent within games, even when the results have been positive. The Fighting Irish are one possession away from also being unbeaten, but their inability to close out that game against Maryland brought back some concerns about his balance at critical times. (Who can forget the collapse of the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament?)
For now, I’ll stick with Notre Dame as the best in the ACC because the Irish came back strongly against University of Connecticuteven if Azzi benefit he was unavailable for most of the night. NC State is right behind them due to the Wolfpack’s consistent body of work, followed by Virginia Tech (beat a good one!) and then North Carolina. Regardless of the order, this is shaping up to be a fantastic ACC season, even without Louisville in its prime.
• My pick for the best dog in the Big Ten is much easier: Indiana. Despite Berger’s injury and Ohio State’s dominance, not to mention the continued existence of Caitlin Clark, the Hoosiers have been the most impressive team in the conference. Their victory over the Tar Heels was so complete: pick one of Mackenzie Holmes, sarah scalia either sydney parish to connect you, and others will divide you. Chloe Moore McNeil is seamlessly taking on more responsibilities in the game. There is some concern about how the offense looks when the 3s aren’t falling (see: Sunday’s narrow win over Illinois), but I believe in the system, the overall execution and the trainer Teri Moren, especially when she’s wearing Berger merch.
“I thought while he was on hiatus right now, I’d put a little money in his pocket with NIL.”
— Griffin González (@griffingonzo) December 2, 2022
• By registering at the bottom of this week’s leaderboard, Gonzaga will stay until kayleigh truong Come back. The Zags have been good enough at full strength to warrant that inclusion. Duke joins the party after some ridiculous defensive stretches against richmond Y Northwest this week. Texas is out after losing again with harmonious path back, just like Tennessee, which is a mess.
arkansasone of the country’s two teams (along with Virginia) sitting at 10-0, gets the nod this week. Most of those wins aren’t against particularly intimidating opponents, as only four of the teams are in the top 100 of the Her Hoop Stats rankings, and only kansas state they are currently projected as an NCAA Tournament team. But wins are wins, and the Razorbacks are racking up quite a few en route to a third consecutive invitation to the Big Dance, which would tie a program record.
(Illustration: John Bradford / the athletic; Jacy Sheldon top photo: Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire Getty Images)